What does a thyroid scan involve?

What does a thyroid scan involve?

The simple heel prick test is a vital health check for new babies

Heelprick

My baby’s heel prick test came back positive for congenital hypothyroidism; he now needs a thyroid scan. What will this involve and, if he does have the condition, what will the treatment be?

Thank you for asking this question – many parents don’t know what the heel prick blood test is and why it’s done, so this gives me a chance to explain it. The test (sometimes called the Guthrie test after Robert Guthrie who created it in 1962) involves a small sample of blood being taken from your baby by pricking their heel; we suspect babies hardly feel it at all. It’s usually done around the fifth day of your baby’s life and is a critical test as it screens for nine serious conditions.

We look for six inherited metabolic conditions, as well as sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, and congenital (meaning from birth) hypothyroidism (CHT). If you have this condition, the thyroid gland doesn’t work well – or not at all; in rare cases, babies are born without a thyroid. The thyroid gland produces a hormone, thyroxine, which is critical to growth, the development of the brain and many body functions. According to current data about 1 in 3,000 babies in the UK may have abnormal thyroid function at birth.

If CHT is detected, a scan is often done to check the appearance of the thyroid, which is in the middle of the neck in front of the windpipe. Other blood tests may also be done to find the exact levels at which the thyroid is working.

But now for the good news. In most cases, when detected early, CHT is very treatable – a replacement for thyroxine can be given every day, in a pill or liquid. This is a lifelong treatment, but as the consequences of not taking it can be huge it seems a small price to pay. So good luck, be brave and try not to worry. And be comforted: your question shows how important the heel prick test is.

Dr Peter Ilves

 

Dr Peter Ilves is a GP and mental health expert with a keen interest in helping people to take a more active role in their own care. Got a question for the panel? Email [email protected].

RELATED ARTICLES

Related Articles

Survival guide: How to bath a baby
Baby
Survival guide: How to bath a baby
Survival guide: How to bath a baby It's a daunting task for a new mum, so here'...
How to explain death to your toddler?
Toddlers
How to explain death to your toddler?
How to explain death to your toddler? It can be difficult to explain the death...
Toddler won't separate from his blanket, how can I wean him off it?
Parenting
Toddler won't separate from his blanket, how can I wean him off it?
Toddler won't separate from his blanket, how can I wean him off it? It can be a...
Junk free Halloween themed foods for babies and toddlers
Recipes & Food
Junk free Halloween themed foods for babies and toddlers
Junk free Halloween themed foods for babies and toddlers Spooky Halloween...

email block

7-best-developmental-toys-for-babiesBaby & Toddler Health

Best Baby Toys for Development and Learning

It's a scientifically proven fact that playtime is instrumental in the healthy development of your child's brain. So we've picked...
eczema-at-bathtimeBaby & Toddler Health

How to have an eczema-friendly, fun bath time

What kind of bathtime products are good for babies with eczema?
what-is-the-difference-between-spontaneous-and-coached-pushing-in-labourLabour and Birth

What is the difference between spontaneous and coached pushing in labour?

Coached pushing is quite a controversial topic, find out how it differs from a spontaneous labour.
win-your-own-clock-change-survival-kit-from-the-safe-sleep-experts-the-gro-companyWin

Win your own Clock Change Survival Kit from the safe sleep experts The Gro Company!

We know how it is. You have just got your child into a routine, they snuggle into bed without too...
win-a-months-supply-of-little-dish-meals-and-colour-in-placematsWin

WIN ​a month's​​ ​supply​ ​of​ ​Little​ ​Dish ​Meals​ ​and a​ ​set​ ​of​ ​Colour-in​ ​Placemats

Win ​a month's​​ ​supply​ ​of​ ​Little​ ​Dish ​Meals​ ​and a​ ​set​ ​of​ ​Colour-in​ ​Placemats to​ ​keep​ ​your ​Little​ ​Diners​ ​entertained
take-your-little-one-on-a-taste-adventure-with-for-aisha-win-one-of-two-prize-bundlesWin

Take Your Little One on a Taste Adventure with For Aisha – Win One of Two Prize Bundles

Take Your Little One on a Taste Adventure with For Aisha – Win One of Two Prize Bundles